Saturday, December 03, 2005

Giving vs. Sharing

I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between giving and sharing lately. Especially this time of year when there’s suddenly a lot of talk about giving to the poor…but is there any sharing happening?

Giving has the potential to construct an artificial hierarchy, with the giver superior to the receiver. This kind of power relationship is too often fraught with condescension and pride, easing the giver’s conscience, and demoralizing the receiver. As David Ruis commented at a recent Off the Map conference, giving can be a form of sanitized benevolence, self-focused and exploitive, devoid of any true compassion.

So then what does it mean to share… it requires humility to walk with one another, to give and receive with mutual respect, to appreciate our deep need for one another.

It is the difference between charity and solidarity. Charity is cheap sympathy…Solidarity calls for true sacrifice and commitment.

For me this means I can no longer just hand out food to the homeless without even knowing their names. (In fact a real act of solidarity would be to stay with them on the streets for a day, a week, or more, to experience what life is really like for them…not sure I’m ready for that yet. But I want to get there.) I cannot just send money to Africa, without knowing and loving real people dying of AIDS and malaria and hunger. I cannot mentor a refugee family without embracing my own experiences of oppression and loss. I cannot care for a child of incarcerated parents without making my own heart vulnerable to the inevitable wounding of an angry, hurting soul.

I am compelled to engage in the lives of the people I wish to serve…to enter into their experience and really dwell there; To listen to their stories; To struggle with them in their cause; To sit down and eat at the same table with them; To receive the gifts they have to offer; To learn a little more about life from them.

In sharing, I realize that I am more whole when these—the poor, the disenfranchised, the oppressed—are at my side and that I desperately need them in my life.

As I learn to share, I am discovering that as a Nairobi saying goes…

I am who we are.


Blogger bobbie said...

oh tonya, i am so thrilled you are blogging. you words inspire me deeply. i think that sharing is so important in kindgom economy - writing a check was never how god intended us to participate in the needs of others. it's so clean and impersonal. thanks for challenging the norm, and writing about the things that are so very important.

ps - i meme-d you today.

3:51 PM  
Blogger Deb said...

What a wonderful quote, "I am who we are." Thank you.

6:13 AM  

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